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Ch. XVI.]

SHERIDAN BEGINS HIS WORK.

493

CHAPTER XVI

1864.

SHERIDAN IN THE VALLEY: ARMY OF THE JAMES: WILMINGTON AND FORT FISHER.

Sheridan in command in the Shenandoah Valley — Enters upon his work with spirit — Defeats Early at

Opequan Creek — Early's attack upon our forces at Cedar Creek — Nearly a rout, but turned to a victory by Sheridan's arrival — Extracts from Sheridan's dispatches — Early's chagrin — Grant's plans and pur. poses in neighborhood of Richmond – Fort Harrison taken — Cavalry expeditions and service Reconnaissances and engagements Attempt at Hatcher's Run — Subsequent movements - Strategic importance of Wilmington — Expedition against Fort Fisher — Porter and the naval part of the expedition Weitzel to command the land troops — Butler accompanies the troops — Naval attack

The troops landed, but not allowed by Butler to assault the fort — Expedition given up by Butler, who is superseded by Gen. Ord - Starts anew under Terry and Porter - Extracts from Gen. Terry's report, January, 1865 – Gallant conduct of the navy and army – Value and greatness of our success.

1964.

GEN. GRANT, clearly possessed of the Severe skirmishing ensued, here and dea that it was necessary to have some elsewhere, and Sheridan found it exone efficient commander in the depart. pedient to retire again to the neighborments of West Virginia, Washington, hood of the Potomac. The month of Susquehanna, and the middle depart. August and the first half of September ment, recommended that Gen. Sheridan passed in this way, without any genbe placed in charge; which was ac eral engagement. “The two armies

. cordingly done, and Sheridan, on the lay in such a position—the enemy on 7th of August, assumed command of the west bank of the Opequan Creek

the "middle military division.” covering Winchester, and our forces in

The enemy, at the time, were front of Berrysville—that either could concentrated in the neighborhood of bring on a battle at any time. Defeat Winchester, and our forces occupied. to us would lay open to the enemy the the line of the Monocacy, at the cross states of Maryland and Pennsylvania ing of the Baltimore and Ohio Rail. for long distances, before another army road, leaving open to the rebels West-could be interposed to check him. Unern Maryland and Southern Pennsyl. der these circumstances, I hesitated vania.

about allowing the initiative to be Sheridan entered vigorously upon taken. Finally, the use of the Baltihis work. He pushed forward a column more and Ohio Railroad and the Chesfrom Harper's Ferry up the Shenan. apeake and Ohio Canal, which were doah Valley to Winchester, and beyond, both obstructed by the enemy, became to Fisher's Hill, in the vicinity of Stras. so indispensably necessary to us,

and burg, where Early was in position. the importance of relieving Pennsylva

a

1864.

ized;

nia and Maryland from continuously with heavy loss on the 20th. Sheridan threatened invasion was so great, that pursued him with great energy through I determined the risk shou-d be taken. Harrisonburg, Staunton, and the gaps But fearing to telegraph the order for of the Blue Ridge. After stripping an attack without knowing more than the Upper Valley of most of the supI did of Gen. Sheridan's feelings as to plies and provisions for the rebel army, what would be the probable result, I he returned to Strasburg, and took po

left City Point, on the 15th of sition on the north side of Cedar

September, to visit him at his Creek.” headquarters, to decide, after conference The rebel commander, having been with him, what should be done. I met reinforced, again returned to the Valhim at Charleston, and he pointed out ley, and while Sheridan was absent on so distinctly how each army lay; what business at Washington, he made an he could do the moment he was author. assault on our army, which nearly re

and expressed such confidence of sulted in complete rout and overthrow. success, that I saw there were but two On the night of the 18th of October, words of instructions necessary-GỌ the rebels crossed the mountains which in! For the convenience of forage, the separated the branches of the Shenanteams for supplying the army were doah, forded the North fork, and early kept at Harper's Ferry. I asked him on the morning of the 19th, under cover if he could get out his teams and sup- of the darkness and the fog, surprised plies in time to make an attack on the and turned our left flank, and captured ensuing Tuesday morning. His reply the batteries which enfiladed our whole was, that he could before daylight on line. Affairs were in a most painfully Monday. He was off promptly to time, critical condition. Panic was fast deand I may here add that the result was moralizing the army, and in a brief such that I have never since deemed it space, had not help arrived, all would necessary to visit Gen. Sheridan before have been lost. Most opportunely, giving him orders.

that help came in the person

of Sheri. “Early on the morning of the 19th dan himself. He was on his return of September, Gen. Sheridan attacked from Washington, on this eventful Gen. Early at the crossing of the Ope morning, and at Winchester, thirteen quan Creek, and after a most sanguin- miles distant, heard the booming of ary and bloody battle, lasting until cannon. Instantly, aware of the im

. five o'clock in the evening, defeated portance of his presence, he set off at him with heavy loss, carrying his entire full speed, and never drew rein till he position from Opequan Creek to Win- reached the battle field, his horse cov. chester, capturing several thousand ered with foam and he himself in a state prisoners and five pieces of artillery. of intense excitement. He took in the The enemy rallied and made a stand in situation at once. He rode along the a strong position at Fisher's Hill, where lines; he shouted to the men, “turn, he was attacked and again defeated

* Report of Lieut.-Gen. U. S. Grant,” pp. 29, 3

, 30

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CH. XVI.]

SHERIDAN'S VICTORY OVER EARLY.

495

boys, tuin; we're going back!” and organized regiment of his army. From so powerful was his influence over the the accounts of our prisoners who have troops, and such new spirit was infused escaped and citizens, the rout was cominto them by his presence, that they plete. About 2,000 of the enemy rallied, and renewed the battle to good broke and made their way down purpose.

through the mountains on the left. At ten P.m. of the same day, Sheri. Fourteen miles on the line of retreat dan sent Grant a dispatch, in which he the road and country were covered with said: “I have the honor to report, that small arms thrown away by the flying my army at Cedar Creek was attacked rebels and other debris. Forty-eight this morning before daylight, and my pieces of captured artillery are now at left was turned and driven in confusion. my headquarters. I think that not less In fact, most of the line was driven in than 300 wagons and ambulances were confusion, with a loss of twenty pieces either captured or destroyed. From of artillery. I hastened from Winches all that I can learn, I thing that Early's ter, where I was, on my return from reinforcements were not less than 16,000 Washington, and found the armies be- men.* tween Middletown and Newtown, Thus was brought to end, as Grant having been driven back about four states in his report, “the enemy's last miles. I here took the affair in hand, attempt to invade the North by way of and quickly united the corps, formed a the Shenandoah Valley. I was now

compact line of battle just in enabled to return the 6th corps to the

time to repulse an attack of the Army of the Potomac, and to send one enemy, which was handsomely done at division from Sheridan's army to the about one P.M. At three P.M., after Army of the James, and another to some changes of the cavalry from the Savannah, Georgia, to hold Sherman's left to the right flank, I attacked with new acquisitions on the sea coast, and great vigor, driving and routing the thus enable him to move without deenemy, capturing, according to the last taching from his force for that pur. report, forty-three pieces of artillery pose." and very many prisoners. Affairs, at times, looked badly, but by the galtold his troops so, in an address, October 220 : “ I had

* Early was greatly annoyed at his defeat, and he lantry of our brave officers and men, hoped to have congratulated you on the splendid victory disaster has been converted into a splen- of announcing to you that, by your subsequent mis

won by you on the 19th, but I have the mortification did victory. Darkness again intervened conduct, all the benefits of that victory were lost, and to shut off greater results. I now oc

a serious disaster incurred. Had you remained stead

fast to your duty and your colors, the victory would cupy Strasburg." Two days later, Oc- have been one of the most brilliant and decisive of the tober 21st, Sheridan wrote again to war. You would have gloriously retrieved the roGrant: “I pursued the routed force of verses at Winchester and Fisher's Hill, and entitled

yourselves to the admiration of your country. But the enemy nearly to Mount Jackson, many of you, including some commissioned officers, which point he reached during the yielding to a disgraceful propensity for plunder, do

serted your colors to appropriate to yourselves the night of the 19th and 20th, without an abandoned property of the enemy,” etc.

1864.

1864.

After the occupation by Gen. War- weakened by withdrawal of troops to ren of the Weldon Railroad below Pe. the north side. In this reconnaissance tersburg, in August, (p. 453) there was we captured and held the no active demonstration of importance enemy's works near Poplar for more than a month. Grant was Spring church. In the afternoon, troops watching the opportune moment, and moving to get to the left of the point guiding the affairs of the several armies gained, were attacked by the enemy so as to tend steadily, if not rapidly, in heavy force, and compelled to fall to the destruction of the rebels in arms. back, until supported by the forces On the night of the 28th of September, holding the captured works. Our the 10th and 18th corps, forming part cavalry, under Gregg, was also attackof Butler's army, were crossed to the ed, but repulsed the enemy with great north side of the James, and advancing, loss. On the 7th of October, an atearly the next morning, carried the very tack was made on Kautz's cavalry, strong fortifications and entrenchments north of the James, which succeeded in below Chapin's Farm, known as Fort driving back our force, with heavy loss Harrison. Fifteen pieces of artillery in killed, wounded and prisoners, and were captured, and possession was taken the loss of all the artillery, eight or of the New Market road and entrench- nine pieces. The enemy then attacked ments. Following this, an assault was the entrenched line, where Birney was made upon Fort Gillmore, immediately in command, but were repulsed with in front of Chapin Farm fortifications; great slaughter. On the 13th of Octobut it was unsuccessful and attended ber, a reconnaissance was sent out hy with heavy loss.

Butler, with a view to drive the rebels Kautz's cavalry was pushed forward from some new works they were con on the right, moving along the Central structing; no advantage, however, was Road, supported by the 10th corps, to gained, and our troops met with heavy the main works, within three miles of loss. Richmond. The two corps now formed An attempt was made by Grant, on a junction on the line of works which the 27th of October, to penetrate the they had captured, where they were rebel lines, the movement being on their next day vigorously assailed by the right flank. The 2d corps, followed by enemy, who had been brought up in two divisions of the 5th corps, with the force from Petersburg to regain the lost cavalry in advance and covering our positions. In this assault the Union left flank, forced a passage of Hatcher's troops acting on the defensive bad the Run, and moved up the south side of advantage, and gallantly repulsed the it toward the Southside Railroad, until impetuous assaults of the foe.

the 2d corps and part of the cavalry On the morning of the 30th of Sep- reached the Boydton Pla'ık Road where tember, Gen. Grant sent out a recon- it crosses Hatcher's Run. At this point naissance, with a view to attacking the our troops were six miles distant from enemy's line, if it was found sufficiently the Southside Railı oad, which Grant

Cu. XVI.]

OPERATIONS AGAINST FORT FISIER.

497

and rear.

had hoped, by this movement, to reach ren, which resulted in the destruction and hold. But, finding that the end of of the Weldon Railroad from Jarrett's, the enemy's fortifications had not been below Stony Creek Station, to Bellfield reached, and no place presenting itself at the Meherrin River. A cold rainfor a successful assault, our troops were storm, turning to hail and snow, ren. ordered to withdraw within our forti- dered the march, which lasted five fied lines. Late in the afternoon, the days, especially severe and trying to rebels moved out across Hatcher's Run, our men. in a gap not yet closed between Han- The successful operations of the navy, cock's and Warren's troops, and made in closing the ports of Savannah, Chara furious assault on Hancock's right leston and Mobile, had reduced the

The corps was immediately rebels to a single place of entrance for faced to meet the assault, and, after a the blockade runners and such like. bloody combat, our men drove the This was the harbor of Wilmington, enemy within his works, and withdrew North Carolina. The approach to this that night to their old position. In important and valuable strategic posi- . support of this movement, Butler made tion, situated on Cape Fear River, a demonstration on the north side of thirty miles from the sea, was protected the James, and attacked the enemy on by several formidable forts and batterthe Williamsburg Road, and also on ies, at the two main entrances at either the York River Railroad. In the for extremity of the island, stretching across mer he was unsuccessful; in the latter the mouth of the river. The old or he succeeded in carrying a work which western inlet was commanded by Forts was afterward abandoned, and his forces Caswell and Johnson and the coast forwithdrew to their former positions. tifications, while the new or eastern in

The subsequent movements in the let was defended on Federal Point by Army of the Potomac, during the year, Fort Fisher, a newly-erected casemated were directed against the enemy's line earthwork of great strength, mounting for receiving supplies to the south of some forty heavy guns. Other formid

Petersburg. On the 1st of De-able defences, stretched along the shore,

cember, Gen. Gregg, at the head affording a secure protection to blockof a strong cavalry force, made a suc- ade runners entering the harbor. The cessful raid upon Stony Creek Station two main entrances being forty miles on the Weldon Railroad, where there apart, intersected by numerous channels, was a store of supplies, this being the it was virtually impossible effectually depot whence they were transferred by to prevent the English vessels, specially wagoning across to the Southside Rail. constructed for the purpose, entering the road. A fort at this place, mounting river. two guns, was assaulted and taken, to- In order to gain possession of Fort gether with about 200 prisoners. This Fisher, the land north of New Inlet expedition was followed, on the 6th of was a matter of prime importance, and December, by another, led by Gen. War- as it required the co-operation of the

1861.

VOL. IV.-63.

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